The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre,CISLAC has condemned the unlawful, inhumane and crass act of assault and extortion unleashed on the staff of South Saharan Social Development Agency- a not for profit organization dedicated to improving the plight of women and children based in Enugu, Ms Ukaoma Nma. The statement by CISLAC’s Executive director Auwal Musa (Rafsanjani) said this odious act was perpetrated by the leadership of the Enugu State Waste Disposal Agency, ESWAMA, on the 29th of August 2012.
According to the statement,“CISLAC laments and is scandalized that the head of a government Agency, supposedly established to promote the health of the people, in the person of Mrs. Ogaku and her assistant Mr Nnamani could degenerate to uncivilized methods of harassment, brutalization, abduction and extortion reminiscent of military juntas under a democratic dispensation”the statement said,adding that “CISLAC is further agitated that this barbaric treatment was meted out to the hapless Development Worker for alleged non-payment of waste disposal fees by her organization. This is in spite of the fact that no bill has ever been sent to the organization and the office is located in a Plaza where service charge is paid and the ESWAMA fees received directly for the Property Managers responsible for the Plaza as an aggregated payment.”
Rafsanjani said “We consider the act of the ESWAMA agents to be misplaced, illegal, extortionist and uncalled for. It is also dubious and smacks of corruption, especially as it turned out that the staff who was abducted and illegally detained, despite pleas from well meaning onlookers, was only released upon the collection of N65, 000 for which no receipt was issued.”
“Monies collected by agents of a government agency with neither a prior issuance of a bill nor subsequent receipt upon payment and with the use of force amounts to forceful extortion which is identical to robbery and is criminal. The assault of an innocent citizen carrying out her lawful business amounts to a violation of her human right to the dignity of human person and is unacceptable in a society where the rule of law prevails,”he added.
CISLAC appears further disturbed that this has become the practice of this government funded agency. “They abduct people on the streets, in their homes and in offices and make them pay amounts that are unjustifiable. Those who are unable to pay are put in prison and left there to languish without tria,”the statement said.
“CISLAC wishes to remind the government of Enugu State that we are under a democratic system with procedures, laid down rules and laws and her Agencies cannot operate outside the law. This event which is reminiscent of the military era when efforts were made to muzzle Civil Society Organizations and prevent them from operating freely is therefore anachronistic as it is autocratic and unbefitting of the prevailing trend in our nation’s history.We also want the that Government of Enugu to know that most civil society organizations are law abiding, making voluntary efforts to contribute to development in society and the welfare of disadvantaged citizens and always endeavour to abide by laid down laws as it is in this case where the organization in question has no history of default in the payment of ESWAMA fees and did not deserve this ‘jungle justice’ treatment.”
The civil society group also called on the governor and members of the Enugu State House of Assembly, to investigate this matter and ensure that the truth is established and justice is done and anyone found to have exceeded the limits of law and civilized human conduct be brought to book.
“We call on Mrs. Ogaku to tender an unreserved apology to the organization and staff concerned for this unwarranted act of aggression and abuse of office and power. She should henceforth carry out her duties in accordance with the law and in a civilized manner. No organization sustained by the commonwealth has the right to act with impunity. Assaulting and abducting ordinary citizens is not the way to get bills paid” the executive director said.
Also, CISLAC called on the Nigeria Police, Enugu state to institute an investigation to establish whether or not extortion and fraud has been perpetrated in respect of the N65,000 allegedly collected without a bill or receipt being issued as against the normal practice of paying ESWAMA fees, as this would amount to a crime if established.
Rafsanjani equally made a clarion call on all human rights groups, women groups and indeed all civil society organizations, the media and well meaning Nigerians to be unanimous in expressing their condemnation of this unacceptable conduct.